Doron Junger
Word from the diaspora

Will We Be Okay?

doc tags, chain, necklace, explosion
6 months in: still wearing our dog tags

It’s been 6 months. Half a year of marking off grim milestones: the number of days to the war (183); of fallen soldiers (256); of Hamas battalions decimated (18 out of 24).  6 months of obsessively listening to our favorite daily Israel war briefing while folding laundry, taking out the puppies or grocery shopping.  6 months of wearing dog tags around our necks to remind us of the hostages, to whom every day in captivity must feel interminable.

We all remember where we were the moment we first heard the news on October 7.  Personally, I was raising our bedroom shades when my Israeli wife read out from her side of the bed a strange headline that had popped up on her phone overnight: “Israel has been infiltrated by Hamas”.  Life changed in that instant and has not been the same since.  “Will we be okay?”, my wife asked later that day, through a veil of tears running down her face.

It’s a question we’ve all been asking, in one form or another, ever since.

Six months in, my answer is that it depends on the “we” in the question.  On whether you are asking about Israelis, or about us Jews in the diaspora.

Israel and Israelis will be okay.  Of that, I am confident.  Israel knows what it is fighting for: for its way of life, for security, for freedom, for peace and quiet; for survival.  It is fighting “to be a free people in our land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem”, as the Hatikvah concludes.  Israelis have come together in a way that leaves many (myself included) verklempt and inspired by a people united in purpose and filled with compassion and Ahavat Israel.

Take the reservists who jumped on overfilled, standing-room-only planes to return to Israel in order to march into combat.  Take the lactating mothers who daily donated breast milk via a national network to the infants whose mothers were suddenly gone – deployed, kidnapped, murdered.  Take the haredim who mounted campaigns to supply combat soldiers with boots, ceramic plates, state-of-the-art helmets and countless barbecues.  Take the stars of Israeli song and theater who entertained the displaced residents from the Gaza envelope and the country’s north in their hotels.

Israel also knows what it is fighting against: a religious extremist, maniacally brutal, sadistic terror group financed by the Islamic Republic of Iran that – with the help of billions in foreign aid funds – has turned Gaza into an underground fortress, into a booby-trapped battlefield, immediately to Israel’s south.  Israelis know that Hamas must be defeated.

I am not Pollyannaish in my assessment, and well aware that there are divisions along multiple fault lines in Israeli society, between – to name but a few such battlefronts – haredim and more secular Jews over the question of conscription, between the proponents of judicial reform and its opponents, between Bibi Netanyahu and seemingly everyone else in Israel (save perhaps Sara, the First Geveret).  But when it comes to Israel’s war against Hamas, these fault lines all but disappear.  Even the historically stark divide between Jewish and Arab Israelis has blurred, giving way to unprecedented proximity in terms of national identity and feeling.

That is not to deny that there are nuanced disagreements between Israelis over how exactly the war should be prosecuted.  A vociferous group among the family members of the hostages, for example, would like their release to receive primary emphasis as a war aim relative to the defeat of Hamas.  The ultranationalist fringe has extended a misty-eyed welcome to the idea of re-colonizing Gaza as part of a day-after scenario.  The extreme right does not see why, after so many Gazan civilians participated in the October 7 atrocities, Israel should go to great efforts to stream humanitarian aid to the Strip, especially when so much of it is routinely plundered by Hamas and Palestinian Jihad.  But compared to the broad strategic objectives of the war, all these debates are over relatively minor tactical issues whose airtime is disproportionately greater than the space they generally occupy in Israeli minds.

Will Israel still be alright, as I predict, if it is diplomatically isolated?  “Israel Alone” reads the headline on the cover of the latest issue of The Economist – not phrased as a question, mind you, but an assertion.

First, Israel is at present far from isolated.  A multitude of democracies stand with Israel, including the lone heavyweight among EU States, Germany (despite widespread anti-Israel feeling within its large Muslim population), and the United States, the mixed messages of the Biden-Harris administration notwithstanding.  Besides the continued supply of arms and international diplomatic support (a regrettable, if likely inconsequential, abstention at the UN being the notable exception), and a large majority of the US Congress supporting Israel, an even more important source of American support for Israel derives from the American public, which overwhelmingly is on Israel’s side.

Second, even if – ludicrous as it sounds – Israel was abandoned by its allies and truly isolated, I know this: Israel will defeat Hamas – with or without the US’ precision weapons.  Hamas’ remaining 20,000 fighters cooped up in their underground dungeons in Rafah are simply no match for the IDF’s might.  In the aftermath of a victory over Hamas, Israel will, if necessary, form new alliances.  When the late Henry Kissinger said that “power is the ultimate aphrodisiac” he may have been thinking of interpersonal relationships, but I am sure he of all people would have agreed that the same is true in the arena of international relations.  A victorious Israel is much more attractive to allies real and potential, especially in the Middle East, than an Israel that allows itself to be brutalized and leaves Hamas standing.

How about us in the diaspora?  Will we be ok?  I am much less optimistic.

Whether in the US, UK, Germany, France, Belgium or Australia, we have allowed ourselves to be confused about our values, divided to the point of dysfunctionality, and cannibalistic in our poorly thought-out application of lofty principles in ways that do not serve us.  Many of our elected politicians are revealing themselves to be feckless panderers rather than principled leaders.  There are innumerable examples of the way in which the whole panoply of equality, anti-discrimination and human rights law has turned into a weapon against civilization.  We naively invited in DEI, a movement rooted in the bankrupt and discredited ideologies of Marxist socialism and anarchism, to deeply entrench itself in the classroom and administrative corridors of our elite educational institutions.  At universities, students are taught to adopt the perspective of intersectionality by applying to today’s complex world over-simplistic prisms of the oppressor-oppressed, colonizer-colonized, powerful-powerless, whites-coloreds constructs, through which Jews emerge as oppressively powerful white colonialists.  It beggars belief that ideas premised on patently erroneous assertions such as that “truth is unknowable” and “verbal violence is violence”, and that deny the reality of social progress, are finding traction at universities of all places, the very institutions devoted to man’s search for truth and freedom of thought, and where social progress is blatantly evident.  In a mindless embrace of multiculturism, we tolerate radical calls to “decentralize the West” and shy away from resolutely standing up for the Judeo-Christian values on which our societies are built because we feel timid about imposing our moral code on immigrants raised on contrasting ones.  Apparently, “who are we to say that our way of life is superior?”, goes the thinking, when it need not necessarily be superior, by the way, but merely a set of societal codes we hold dear and deem worthy of upholding, an enterprise in which we are sadly failing.  We accept a trade-off in which our police forces, on our roadways and college campuses alike, prioritize appeasement of pro-terrorist protestors over stringently enforcing existing laws against hate speech, civil disruption and vandalism.  We permit Imams in our mosques to incite hatred, specifically antisemitism, without applying to them the full power of our laws, including the ability to deport non-citizen offenders, for fears of being labelled xenophobic.  And so, contorted like pretzels, we simultaneously strive for liberal ideals and to fight off a multitude of inter-related ideological viruses that threaten to devour us from the inside.

We may soothe ourselves by hoping that it’s just the kids acting up, that they’ll eventually grow up and out of it, and perhaps they will.  But what if they don’t?  What if, diploma in hand, they get hired by similarly indoctrinated graduates, rise up the ranks, and – still convinced by the merits of identity politics and equality of outcomes, and by the idea that Jews cannot be discriminated against – land positions of significant responsibility, in hospital administration, the local police, on school boards, municipal authorities and state governments?  What will that mean for our futures?

Israelis know what they are fighting for.  They came close to losing (in 1948, 1967, 1973 and on October 7) what we in the diaspora have come to take for granted.  We lull ourselves into a false sense of security under the delusion that the robustness of our democracies and our social fabrics, including the fulsome acceptance of us as Jews, is guaranteed.  Israelis on the other hand know how fragile their existence really is, how it is safeguarded only by constant vigilance, deterrence and – when necessary – resolutely forceful defense.  And that is a very good thing, because so long as Israel exists, we will be ok.

I tell her this, then kiss my wife for added reassurance.  I am not convinced she is assuaged.  She may yet have the better instincts.

About the Author
Doron Junger MD, a German Jew, is a US-based investment fund manager focused on the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors. A surgeon by background, he attended Carmel College, and graduated from Oxford University with a medical degree and from INSEAD with a Masters degree in Business Administration. He lives in Miami with his Israeli wife and three children.
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